Sunday, December 26, 2010

Flooded!

Here are some good rainy pictures from in-and-around the farm!  Quite exciting times for a usually rain-less San diego.







During the day that day (Wednesday) we also took the girls downtown to hand out donuts and coffee/tea to San Diego's wet and homeless.  Once when we were giving food to folks down there, one of the homeless guys mentioned this idea of hot coffee on a rainy day and how fantastic it would be.  Jeremy has wanted to do it ever since, so we spent our morning running around for a giant coffee maker and 300 donut holes.  It was all actually very worth it.  We made some cold homeless quite happy.  I don't have pictures of that to share, though!  I always feel weird taking photos of them.

I know there is so much to blog about - I really want to fill you in on everything from now over the past month!  Sarah's got all of the Thanksgiving photos so I'll let her post them.  It was fabulous and we had a great time with friends.  We are officially moved in, though not totally organized.  It's been a transition for sure, but I think we were all really ready for it.  So far, so good - loving every minute of it and really loving the people that we've jumped into this with.  I can't believe it's already been over a month!  Whew - 1/12 of a year down =)

Cheers!

Friday, November 26, 2010

A wet fall in San Diego




this last picture is a small creek that developed in the backyard after one of the heavier rainstorms.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Turkeys, more drama


Why did we just invest 27 weeks in these turkeys when one of the bigger ones decides to go a die today. I mean WTF?!? She must have known Thanksgiving was drawing near. But really, we had that turkey since it was the size of my iphone dammit! I drove it back and forth in my car between the farm and the Blough's house. I chased a coyote out of its coup when it was young. I squeezed its crop when it got all bloated and gross and made it vomit all over the place. I mean crap, I was really looking forward to eating that bird. Not to mention, it ate its way through so much organic poultry feed, it would have sold for $20 a lb. at the grocery store, and now its buried underneath a garden bed.

For those of you thinking that your raising your own free range organic turkey for Thanksgiving is a good idea let me give you some advice. Whole Foods has a great selection of free range birds already packaged, de-feathered and cleaned. The experiment is not worth it. These birds are much harder to manage than chickens, get sick more often, have more problems and have the mental capabilities as your average garden snail. Kim and Sarah are not going to like that i posted this blog. But, i don't care. I have had to bury two turkeys already. Not to mention the 2 we lost to coyotes and the other 4 that died when they were still chicks. I am telling you people, i don't care how good the other 4 are going to taste come the Big Day, it has been a hassle and a bother raising these birds.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Shed

The shed is almost completed!  There are more pictures in the slide show on the right, so you can see what the free standing unit itself looks like if you haven't seen it in person.  This is J. finishing up some of the flooring.  It's got a floated bamboo floor, thanks to some overstock from his dad's shop.  Thank you, Wooden Floor Co., Inc!

We've just been pouring all of our spare time into 1) trying to finish the shed and 2) packing up and sifting through all of our stuff.  It's nice to be able to stretch it out and try to organize and get rid of stuff as we go.  We really need to whittle out any excess, so if you need anything at all you might want to ask before you go buy anything...

Jeremy mentioned yesterday that Andy told him there is a 90% chance the short sale will go through.  I guess I just (stupidly) assumed that since it got approved, there was no way it WOULDN'T go through.  Silly me!  I guess either way, we are out in the next two weeks.  There's really no way we can get 95% ready to move and then just unpack and stay here.  It's now or nothing.  Fingers crossed that everything pulls through, though, because I'd really much rather see someone who really wants this place get it instead of having it sit uncared for AND getting slammed with a foreclosure on our record.  We've loved this house, and cared for it and poured a lot of our energy into it for the past few years.  It would be more than a little heart breaking to just see it be one of the thousands that sit empty in this wreck of a market.

A time of excitement, of change, of movement and purging.  Emptying out our old life and jumping into the new.  It feels good to clean out all of this dust and throw away all of this trash.  Let's keep moving!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Exponential Reality

Imagine your life as a math problem. Sometimes you would be living in the world of negatives, sometimes operating in the world of positives and on rare occasion your life would speed up and operate exponentially. Life would speed up and sequence of events would flash before your eyes with speed and tangled beauty.

We have been talking about living in community, talking about sharing a farm and talking about short selling our house since May. We have shared our communal vision with countless people and dreamt about the endless possibilites of an urban farm. The theoretical became the inevitable this week when we found out our short sale went through. A jumbled web of emotions ranging from shear panic and utter delight, to sadness and giddy elation ran through us. The stress and inconvenience of occupying 2 worlds screached to a halt. God's plan is rolling.

So back to the math problem. Life which was already busy burst forth with a new pace. We got to get the hell out of our house in 4 weeks which means 3 weeks to move. On your mark, get set, oh crap we still both have full time jobs. So we sat down with our new family of 6 and made the plans. Mission One- get the turkeys back to the farm. BJ was loving this plan. Turkey poop and cardboard boxes here we come. Mission 2- finish the shed. Mission 3- garage sale, next weekend. Mission 5- clean out 4 years worth of junk. Mission 6-33 Move in 3 weeks.

Reality is in the eye of the beholder.

Now stress is handled in many ways. Drinking exessively, cussing, taking it out on family, throwing chickens, or praying. God has been drafting this multi family farm/community plan for quite some time; ever since BJ and Sarah were 2 days from closing escrow on the wrong house and since Chase lost our refinance paperwork for the 13th time 2 years ago. I am happy to be joining our families together and look forward to a steady stream of possibilities that this community holds. We/I need to remember to breath and enjoy picking up chicken poop and moving boxes. When life becomes exponential it is an exceptional gift to have caring people to help you move turkeys in trash cans and to remind eachother it is OK to BREATH........

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Must-read list.

Current read = The Year of the Goat.  Thanks, Tom!  I have really enjoyed this book so far, and for anyone with a little bit of urban farmer in you I would highly recommend it.  A few other books that I've read and REALLY enjoyed over the past few...Let me know how you like 'em!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Thanksgiving!


We now have turkeys in our backyard.  Refer to BJ's first official post below for the rundown.  Anyhow, I got some great pics with Estelle, the bird lady.  They are as big as her, but she has no fear!  On the flip side, Camille will barely even carry the bantams, let alone the full grown chickens.  Estelle single handedly strong-armed all 5 of the turkeys back into the coop today.  She's definitely earning her spot on the farm!


Tureky Chauffeur?

Life on the farm is full of firsts. Many firsts have been with our recent Thanksgiving endeavor involving turkeys. Its hard not to get too attached to these friendly, but extremely dumb, birds. They followed us around when they were small, running with their wings out and tails up. They make noises you only hear when you accidentally flip to the the hunting channel and see a grown man in camouflage with a bright orange hat and vest (defeats the purpose doesn't it) trying to call some wild turkeys by rubbing some sticks together. Most of the time this man seems less than educated and has way too big of a gun for hunting turkeys.

But as friendly as they can be, they are still bound for the dinner table. Which is where the chauffeuring comes in. Up until this weekend the 5 turkeys (we lost 4 as chicks, 2 to coyotes, and 1 to a leg deformity) were living in the chicken coup with all our hens. We decided it was time for a change when we saw a turkey get into a fight with a hen and almost get the whole head of the hen in its mouth. I had to break up the squabble by throwing my shoe at them. The change involved moving out 5 turkeys to Kim and Jeremy's coup in the backyard of their old house, as they are still awaiting short sale approval. Easier said then done. It is hard to find a box big enough and strong enough to hold a full grown turkey, let alone 5 of them. With the aid of a box, a large plastic bin to hold chicken food, and a puppy transport carrier, we managed to get all the birds into the back of the Subaru Outback. A lot of people tease me about my car, but once again the ole' Outback sure came in handy.

The drive started out fine, I had the A/C blasting so they wouldn't bake, I was a little nervous about the one bird in the cardboard box, but I had a pre-formed contingency plan in effect if he were to escape in route. That wasn't my biggest concern. I didn't realize that 2.5 minutes into our drive, each turkey would empty its bowels and continue to do so for the remainder of the 12 minute commute. In a confined space, turkey poop is extremely pungent and nasty The cardboard box soaked through with poop, the inside of the plastic bin was smeared and covered with it, along with the 3 birds inside it and iur white turkey came out a nice tan poopy color. All in all, I don't recommend Turkey Chauffeuring. And in the event you have to do it, make sure you have plenty of air freshener for your car, both for during and after (my car still has a slight smell)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Home life

As you can see from Sarah's last post, puppies have arrived!  They are extremely cute and we are all now currently in puppy glee.  They are a little shy right now, but finally starting to find their way out of their shell.  They seem to be so smart!  They are herding dogs by nature, so we'll see how their instincts manifest with a gaggle of chickens and children.  I have heard that they have a tendency toward "herding" children, so this should be fun to watch as they grow (although I don't know if my kids will think it's too funny...)

We got some great news last week that our first mortgage FINALLY was approved for a short sale.  As most of you know (though some may not) we have been trying since April to short sale our current home so that we can move into the farm and jump into community living.  I think that especially these last couple of months have been a bit trying on us, having to juggle the two households and trying to pitch in as much as we can at the farm while straining to keep up this home as well.  Between juggling jobs and school, two homes and striving to strike a family balance I know that we are pretty worn out.  We are now just awaiting approval from our second mortgage, though the company that holds that mortgage has been so difficult to work with that I am unsure of what may manifest.  I feel as if we are toeing a fine line between short sale and foreclosure. It will be a relief when this is finally over one way or another so that we can just move over there and start the next chapter in this experimental life.   I think at this point we don't really care what happens, we just are looking forward to it being over with.

Everything farm related is still just so enticing to me and I am really sad that it didn't work out this time with the goats!  I haven't been combing craigslist to jump into this quite yet because I don't feel as if we're anywhere near being ready, but I am really excited about future endeavors involving goats milk and cheese.  I anxiously await the time when I can start The Rabbit Project and wonder when we will be ready to work on the tilapia pond.  So many fabulous projects are turning the cogs in my head, but I know that it must be a slow and deliberate process to avoid backfire and resentment.  As the idea of finally selling this home is a reality, I am now able to somewhat loosen the reigns on my excitement and imagine what the nearer future may hold.  Just praying that these transitions will be as smooth as possible for all of us and that we are blessed with grace, openness and acceptance once we are all living together and that any fears will be unfounded.  Wish us luck!
Our little home for the past 4 years.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Puppies Are Here!

OMG. We got our puppies, and they are uber cute. We found them on oodle.com, which I've never been on before, but I'm forever indebted to now. A family in Rincon was selling Australian Shepherd/Cattle Dog puppies, so Kim and the girls and I went up there to see them a few weeks back. They were precious, and as you may have read in my last post, I haven't been able to wait until we could pick them up.

Well, that day came last Sunday. After a long ride home, throwing up in the car and being extremely shook up, they are now settled on the farm. I think they're going to be the perfect dogs for Radio Acres Farm.

video

If you want to see more pics, click here.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Home Farming Movement and Puppies!

This is a cute website. I listed our farm! It's crazy how popular "farming" or backyard gardening is getting! Take that, Monsanto. (Too bad this website is sponsored by KraftFood, which isn't that much better than Monsanto...I wonder what their angle is.)

On another note, we didn't end up getting goats. Not that we didn't try... the craigslist lady backed out. Kim thought it was a sign from God. Probably.

We are getting ready for a big weekend. There's a little double 30th birthday party happening here at the farm, and then, soon after that, we're getting PUPPIES! I am so excited I can't even handle it. They are australian shepherd/cattle dog mixes, and they're soooo cute. Get ready for some puppy pics.

Not quite sure how to get ready for a puppy... any tips?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Goats?

I know my last post was all about not having enough time.  I know that all of these projects and animals DEMAND time.  I know we are all crazy, insanely busy and probably sometimes feel like we are barely keeping it together.  But, damn, we found the best deal on a set-up for goats on craigslist!  Of course it includes 3 of your very own goats to go with it.  The timing may be less-than-perfect, but I know that goats are somewhere on the radar for all of us.  Damn Sarah for sending me that listing!  I called the goat lady (Alicia) and the deal really does sound almost too good for us to pass up.  She bought goats about 6 months ago with big aspirations to have small scale milk production for her family.  It's a mama goat, a 7 month old baby girl and a 7 month old boy (not from the same litter, perfect for breeding in February).  She has the kennel (coyote proof), the milk stand, a hand milker (if you don't want to use your own hands) and a months worth of food, water and feed buckets all included.  Turns out that she DOESN'T own the property and her land lord isn't too keen on her having the goats.  There's not a proper fence there and it's been a struggle since the beginning.  Could her loss be our gain?  What do you think?  Are we ready for goats?  Of course the answer is "NO", but we weren't ready to sell our house or get the chickens, either.  That all turned out okay... didn't it?  We go to check them out on Sunday.  What do you think?

Pros:
1. We want them
2. Fresh milk for most of the year
3. We can make our own cheese
4. It's a fantastic deal.  It's probably 40%-50% off what we would pay getting everything seperately.
5. They EAT WEEDS!

Cons:
1. We don't have a proper fence
2. We barely have time to shower and brush our teeth
3. Our neighbors are tough to gauge - will they be upset?
4. We would really need to find a way to protect our fruit trees and garden beds.  Is it bad to tether a goat?
5. I'd never hear the end of it from Jeremy.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Today

Today, today, ahhhh.  We have been staying on the farm by ourselves for the past few days because our counterparts are out of town.  I had high hopes of doing work around here while they were gone, but geez!  We have hardly had a minute to do anything aside from eat and sleep here.  It's High Holy Days right now for me at work, which is insane since it's the first year I've ever worked at a synagogue.  I had to be downtown at 7:00 am this morning and have worked 10 hour days all week!  I ditched early today because it's my birthday and I didn't feel like working anymore, but I still did nothing productive around here.

Maybe tomorrow we'll get a chance to finish the drywall in the studio and put up the last of the garden boxes and plant those seeds in the last bed.  It is really difficult with all of us working full time to find the time to do things around here.  We just have to keep telling ourselves that we have actually already done quite a lot, all things considered.  It will inevitably be a constant work in progress and we should enjoy the labor of love as much as we can.

I craigs-listed for a little while today and inquired on a couple of breeding rabbits and a heritage tom turkey.   Maybe breeding will be our next little venture as we keep moving forward, finding ways to whittle time out of our days to do these things that we all have a passion about.  Well, not everyone may have a passion for breeding animals and raising meat, but it's my interest!  I guess that's one of the great things about this project -we all have our own passions and things that we love and that we are good at that we can bring to the table.  No one person has to be the master of everything, but if we all work together we can produce something that is really cool.  More to think on.  G'nite!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The roo



I wrote this a while back, when the initial slaughtering of my first rooster was still pretty fresh in my head. We didn't have the blog up and running then, but I thought that writing about it at the time would be good for me. Here is the cut-and-paste from my journal. Remember that this was during the time that we were still fully in the old house and escrow had not yet closed on the farm:

"It all started about two weeks ago when my husband and I awoke to the cute, gurgly sound of one of our newer chicks trying to be a rooster. That half-crow was such a sweet sound at the time and I think it really made us feel like we would officially be changing our lives around. A few mornings later I confessed to Jeremy that I really loved the sound of that call waking me up in the morning and he sheepishly agreed that he loved it too. We both grew up in the city, far away from the likes of cock-a-doodling. That sorry little excuse for a roo crow tickled our heart strings and made us giddy with excitement of thoughts on our future farming project.

"A few short days passed with that cute gurgle manifesting into a full fledged crow. Boy, was I surprised with the speed at which those vocal cords matured! Considering the rate that a fertile egg turns into something you roast in the oven, I suppose I shouldn't have been so impressed. Within 4 to 5 months a hatchling starts to lay eggs and has breasts and thighs worthy of the dinner table. It was around this time that Billy called us with the news on their end- one of the chicks at their house had also started to crow.
Roosters are not legal in the city. We all knew that from day 1, but we also all knew that you won't really get into trouble unless someone complains. We all live in pretty close proximity to our neighbors at this point, but I think we all thought that we could just stick it out until that darn coop was built and once we could move those chickens to the bigger property no one would care. At least we were wishfully thinking that. As the mornings continued to pass, the "cute" inevitably turned to obnoxious. The makeshift coop is about 15 feet from our bedroom window, and that rooster was beginning to crow from about 4:30 am on. He had definitely found his voice and instinct told him that he was supposed to use it to protect his flock! I felt sorry for the poor folks, friends and neighbors, who would wander into our backyard unsuspectingly only to be greeted with the surprising call of a defensive rooster.

"As I was beginning to wear thin and count the days until the chickens could leave my cramped yard, Billy and Sarah came by and mentioned how they didn't think it would be a very good idea to take the roosters with us to the new property. Even though the feel is a lot more rural out there, it is still city limits and we really didn't want to start off on the wrong foot with our new neighbors. They had a good point. Considering that we would be starting a hippy-commune-farming project in their neighborhood that might have the potential of irking a few, we probably should try to keep our noses clean and our neighbors happy. But then what? What should be the fate of these beautiful, crowing, hand raised roosters? The way I saw it, we had three options. A) We could give them away on craigslist to someone who would probably eat them, B) we could "donate" them to the buddhist temple up the street so that they could make a meal out of them, or C) we could enjoy the fresh, homegrown meat ourselves. I opted for C.

"I don't know what the difference is between me and everyone else. I was vegan for a little while, and vegetarian for many years after that. It was never the thought of harming an animal that made me choose that lifestyle. I was always an environmentalist and interested in the ramifications of feed lots and hormones in our food. I became more of a health nut with the birth of our children and was alway averse to feeding them hormone or pesticide laden foods. The thought of meat never really grossed me out or disgusted me - quite the contrary! I just thought if I was going to eat it, I shouldn't have a problem putting it's blood on my hands and that feed lots shouldn't exist the way they do today. We should live in better harmony with the earth, especially as our population keeps booming and more strain is created for resources. My (judgmental, I'll admit) pet peeve has always been people who say they'd never be able to slaughter an animal, yet they eat it on their dinner plate everyday without a thought. I didn't think it was necessary for my children to be raised vegetarian, but I always thought it was extremely important for them to understand the proper place where their food came from and to understand the sacrifice that comes with eating meat. It is not something that just is born into square packages in the supermarket. I wanted them to understand the life that was lost and what it meant to have it on your plate, as well as the dirt that the carrots are pulled from and the water that goes into the lettuce. I am a food junkie, in the purest sense! Thoroughly obsessed with food from top to bottom, or dirt to table as it may seem.

"So on this fateful Monday morning in May I decided that it was time. I called our counterparts and told them to bring over their roo and I collected ours. They left, I was alone with our kids to do the dirty work. I was unsure of everyones reaction, so I made sure the kids were inside and preoccupied with some games. I pulled out my ipad and googled "how to process a chicken". I kept that thing by my side the whole time! Step by step, I followed the first blog I stumbled upon. I wish I had the site, I'll try to find it and post it in our links when I get time to search. I started with the roo they brought over, I couldn't bear to begin with the little guy we had hand raised. I hung him up by his feet and slit his throat, and watched his eyes ask me what I had done. I watched the life drain out of him and I won't lie, I cried like a baby. It took me a couple of hours to pluck and dress that first one and I dreaded moving on to number two. I lured the other rooster over, the one that trusted me and came to my hand when I stuck it in the coop. I gently picked him up, stroked and soothed him and then strung him up by his feet and whispered to him that I was so sorry. I repeated the entire process, and this time I cried even more. I stuck them in the fridge and couldn't imagine eating chicken anytime in the near future.

"During the process, a few things really struck me and have grown in my thoughts. I am a foodie, as aforementioned. I am Christian, yet I am interested and educated in other religions. I work at a synagogue, we tutor many Muslim refugees and I have Muslim and Buddhist friends. Food seems to be an integral part of each of these religions except for Christianity, and I don't know why. Slaughtering this chicken gave me so much respect and appreciation of what it means to be kosher and/or halal. I was given the opportunity to thank the chicken for it's life, I felt the warm blood come out of it's throat. I fully understood and received the impact of what it meant to have the blood of that animal on my hands in order for me to put it on the dinner table. For that moment, the sheer importance and reasoning of these religious rituals made perfect and clear sense. It made me sad that in this all, Christians have no blessing they must impart upon their meat during slaughter. If you are spiritual at all, you would most definitely understand the importance of this, I think. It is important to feel the remorse and the sadness and death that must take place in order for you to eat that piece of meat. It really made me feel that God gave us these amazing animals, this amazing life of this creature and it is so bitter-sweet because the meat is delicious and nourishing yet you have to take that life away in order to gain the nourishment from it. It is very post-Garden-of-Eden-esque."

So this blog is long and rambling, but I spilled out my guts during part of it and I hope that you didn't mind reading. Three days after the slaughter, we made some fantastic chicken tacos. Although the thought of eating the guys kind of turned my stomach, I thought it would be such a blatant disregard for their life if we just let them go to waste. I was kind of in a corner because there was really nothing else that could have been done. No way I could have let them go in the trash! I got over it =) I now (obviously) eat chicken, but I will not let even an ounce of it go to waste. The carcass gets picked clean and the leftovers go into stock for another meal later in the week. It seems like such an injustice to throw any of that life in the trash. I know, I am a freak. Whatever.

We have since slaughtered a few more chickens, a gaggle of ducks (also delicious) and we have 5 turkeys hanging out with the laying hens and getting fat for our Farm-tastic Thanksgiving that we hope to have this year. Maybe you can be a part of it too!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

That was fast.

Our egg CSA is now officially full. We'll keep you posted if our production increases! Until then... you can still sign up to be on our wait-list and egg newsletter!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Got eggs?

We are just about ready to officially launch our egg CSA! If you are interested in getting farm fresh, organic eggs every week or every other week please see our "Want Eggs?" tab at the top of this blog! We have a limited number of spots, so be quick. We will also establish a waiting list and as we get more hens coming into lay we will fill it accordingly.
I suppose I should disclaim my use of the word organic- we are not certified in any way, shape or form. I do, however, promise that our hens are probably the best fed darn chickens around. I buy bags of organic whole grains straight from OBPeoples bulk department and mix their feed according to this recipe at Greener Pastures Farm. This is a great website for feed and chick starter recipes if you want to make your own. We also feed them Organic layer pellets straight from our local feed store. If they get sick, we treat them naturally with homeopathic and/or natural remedies such as raw garlic, colloidal silver, grapefruit seed extract and your standard over-the-counter homeopathic drugs. I found a great homeopathic poultry guide that I've got saved on my other desktop, so I will post the link to that later for those that are interested!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Farm: An overview.

In case you were wondering what, exactly, does our farm consist of? Is it a dairy? Do we raise livestock? Do we have any food growing/harvesting?

The answer is... no, yes, maybe someday. Our farm is a bunch of projects. Some might call them ideas...dreams...or just plain craziness.

Here's a quick overview of what we got going on. Hopefully each of these items will become their own blog posts, whenever the guys decide to start blogging... hint. hint.

The chicken coop. You've heard much about this endeavor. Which also includes turkeys.






Our Chicken Education Program
Yes, those are chickens in Trader Joes bags.









Our Composting system. Thank you Colin.






Our Garden... in progress, obviously.



Our orchard, so far.



The studio/detached bedroom.

And our hill, which we're currently taking ideas for.  
 

Did we mention communal living?


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Meet the girls.

We promise this blog won't be entirely about chickens. But if you'd like to meet the girls, click on the photo or go here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The chickens, part three (as the blough's tell it...)



Well, it is true that everything happened kind of in a blur. First, we were vacationing together in November, joking about buying an alpaca farm together somewhere in the central coast on our way up to the bay area to visit family. Next thing you know, they were falling out of escrow and talking about moving away to Indonesia so we had to come up with something drastic! Hence, the farm proposition. I know, i know, it was kind of mean and cruel to entice them to stay, but hey, we were trying desperately to prevent our best friends from bouncing town! In all of the excitement somewhere, sometime before we even knew that escrow was likely to close, Sarah found the chicken lady on craigslist. Now, you have to understand sarah and craigslist. She called me yesterday, outta the blue (when she was really, truly, supposed to be finishing up some work for one of her MBA classes) and told me she was going to be early for dinner because she found an unsurpassable deal on a gate that she had to pick up. A gate that we have no use for, a gate that was pretty and only $10 and she really had a deadline for her homework so she had to take a break and go pick it up. This is Sarah on craigslist, but I digress.

So Sarah was on craigslist and found this really great deal on, like 20 chicks that were all different breeds and she was so excited about it. She told me her plan was to go up and see if the lady would let her pay for the chicks and hang on to them for us for the next month until escrow closed. Sounded good enough to me, we could scramble and build a coop over that first weekend and get them all in a nice little home soon enough, right? Well let me tell you, new projects that involve building never really are as simple as they seem they should be. Many of you probably know that, and of course we did deep inside, too, but we were hopeful and craigslist and livestock are kind of like crack to some of us. Sarah is absolutely right when she says that the boys are the ones who have a better head on their shoulders about some of these decisions, but don't tell them I said that.

Ultimately, one way or another we ended up with a dozen young chickens in our backyard. This was on top of the half-dozen we already had from before, the older gals that had been our backyard chicken factory for the last couple of years. Since they were older and set in their ways AND their coop was really not big enough to comfortably fit any more, we had to build a makeshift run for the new brood. They were all supposed to be pullets, but you know the story. I think two of the ones that we kept in our backyard turned out to be roosters. That's another story all together! I will blog about that adventure next. For this one, i leave you with a photo of one of the roosters in our temporary chicken squatter shanty run...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The chickens, part two.

In the last post, I miss-wrote what actually occurred after the Tragic Raccoon Attack. The chicken-lady called us to come pick up part of our chicken order, not the entire 20+ chickens. We needed to pick up the older contingent of our chicks (she could still keep the smaller ones in her garage, safe from raccoons.) So BJ and I hopped in the car, drove north to Del Mar to claim our chicks.

In our excitement, we forgot anything to actually put the chickens in, so we just stuffed them in our car. No, that's not true. She lent us a cage, and I think we put the rest in a box or something. Then we drove home with our 8 chickens... which, out of the whole 25 or so, wasn't so bad to think about housing. The main problem was that we lived in a small apartment with a "backyard" that we shared with 4 of our neighbors, definitely not the legal 30 feet away from any other houses.

But, luckily our neighbors were pretty mellow. They let us construct a makeshift chicken coop in our shared space. This consisted of laying our outside table on it's side, wrapping plastic mesh around our four post pergola thing, thus creating a 4x4 run. For the actual hen-house (where they slept), we grabbed a big moving box, flipped it upside down, and cut out a door.

The chickens seemed to like their first home. They got busy scratching around, and doing other chicken activities... like pooping everywhere. When we put them in the coop, we  watch with curiosity as most of them seemed to do a strange dance with each other... puffing out their neck feathers and doing what could only be described as a little chicken duel. We thought that was weird, but dismissed it as the girls figuring out their pecking order.

At first I was worried about something eating our chickens, as the whole coop was definitely not predator-proof. But then a much louder concern presented itself. About a week or so after we moved the chickens into their temporary home, we started to hear a strange noise coming from their coop (which happened to be right outside our bedroom window). The noise was somewhere in between a cat's meow and a gargle. We realized that we had a rooster in our midst, and he was learning to crow.

These beginning attempts weren't that problematic, as they were pretty quiet, and we could shut him up by quickly running outside and throwing some feed in the coop. But after awhile, he developed his full crow, and BJ and I would awake with dread to the racket, try to run outside and subdue him before he woke all our neighbors and they called the cops. This morning ritual caused much anxiety for us.

This rooster could not stay in our backyard. I posted him on craigslist for $15, and some nice young man came and bought him. Whether he became someone's meal, only God knows. When we got rid of him, I had my first peaceful morning sleep-in. It was glorious.

Not two days later, we awoke again to crows from the backyard.

"What the..." we groggily complained.Quickly, we ran out to the coop to see what was going on.

We looked at each other nervously, "How many roosters are in there?"

Over the next few weeks, we came to find out that all but ONE of our "girls" were actually boys, and each time we would get rid of one of them, another would start to crow.

Craigslist found homes for about half of them (one time I was in such a rush, I had to leave a rooster in a box on my front step for the person that was going to pick him up), but in the end, we had too many roosters to dispose of. And, we had paid for these birds after all. Might as well get something for our money.

We decided together that they would make some good roast chicken. It was harvest time.

Bravely, the ex-vegan among the four of us was the first to volunteer to slaughter a chicken, so I'll let her describe that in her own words.

Overall, I would not recommend chickens if you live in an apartment in one of the densest parts of your city. It just doesn't make for good sleep. What you really need is a farm...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Eggs!


I am cracking up reading Sarah's entry right now! Yes, yes, it's all true. We counted our eggs way before they hatched, so to speak, and we did NOT have all of our ducks in a row. Ultimately, it all worked out fine. We have a lovely chicken coop, no roosters waking us up in the morning, and all of our hens are starting to lay more regularly. We are averaging 10ish eggs a day, never any less! With 20 hens in the backyard, we anticipate closer to 15 eggs a day at our peak. That means that they are almost all laying now, and the variety of color is awesome. We have a few ameracaunas that lay a lovely pale blue. The crazy chicken lady did some hybridization to produce a hen that lays an egg that comes out looking like a manzanillo olive. The browns vary in shades from a pale, pinkish tint to a deep, dark chocolate. Some of the ladies lay a beautiful rich mocha egg speckled with espresso.

It is funny, in all of it's simplicity, how gratifying it is to collect the freshly lain orbs everyday. I love to count them, to feel their warmth and to "oooh" and "aww" over their color. It never seems to get old. As Sarah said in her last post, hens are not new to us. We obtained our first few about 2 years ago and it has fulfilled me in the most enchanting way, as if I'm a child waking up to exciting gifts every morning. It's as if some seed that's buried deep within my soul is nourished simply by the act of being in touch with my food in this way. Reconnecting with nature. I know that it is so cliche, and I am sure that folks that are real farmers would probably laugh at it, maybe even wishing for an escape of their own some day. I think that people sometimes don't realize what a gift it really is that we get from these animals in every way. Be it as simple as an egg or as generous as their life, we forget to appreciate enough what it is they give. Unfortunately we don't often even make the connection. I feel blessed to be able to give my kids the opportunity to get back to this basic element of nature and food, to instill in them an understanding and respect of where this all comes from.

I logged on here wanting to blog more about the process of the farm, the steps that we went through and instead I find myself reflecting on some of life's "isms". I promise to post soon some photos of the process of building the coop, some pictures of the ladies and maybe a story of the first time we really connected with our food and slaughtered some roosters. As an ex-vegan, the only thing I can say is that I feel like I've come a long way!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The chickens, part one.


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Originally uploaded by radioacres
This really was our first project... as we started accumulating chickens long before the farm came along. You can read about our original chicken (and other) adventures here. A couple years ago Kim, Jeremy, BJ and I had built a chicken coop and run in their backyard and purchased our very own six hens. They had been a great investment, and we knew that one of the first things that we wanted on the farm was more chickens.

In anticipation of moving onto our farm, we had started to scour craigslist for chicks being sold. We were particularly looking for unusual breeds of chickens, which would produce a variety of egg colors. I think it was BJ that actually found the post, but when I read it, I got that craigslist syndrome... you know the one where you read the post, see the pics, and immediately need to buy whatever it is they're selling? All rationality goes out the window, and you begin to plan your day around getting a hold of this person and driving wherever they are to claim your items.

At that point, we were a few weeks away from closing escrow and getting the keys, so I was hoping that I could go and look at the chicks, give her a deposit and ask her to hold onto them until we were ready to come and pick them up. I thought up this plan as I was driving to her house in Del Mar, an unusual neighborhood to have a chicken raising operation.

This Del Mar chicken-seller had a plethora of fancy kinds of chicks she had hatched, as well as other unusual fowl such as peacocks, spread out across her nicely manicured lawn. Speckled-sussex, Wellsummers, marans, so many different breeds with the potential for such varied egg colors! I was sold. I asked her if she could keep the chicks until we moved into our new place and she said yes. Paying cash for 20 chicks, she said she'd throw in a few more for free! I drove home to our tiny apartment, excited and feeling very satisfied with my plan. Now we would have the beginnings of our chicken farm right when we moved in!

Kim was also very excited. The two of us comprise the more spontaneous (read: impulsive) side of our farm quadrant. The men tend to be more... shall we say realistic? I think they were worried about pre-purchase of our chickens.

I pooh-poohed their silly concerns, as I was sure it would work out perfectly. We were set to get the keys in about two weeks. Then, we could quickly throw up a chicken coop and viola! Our chicken farm would be ready.

Unfortunately, two things complicated my plan.

The first was Arnold, our governator. He decided to allow a California tax credit for home-buyers, which we found out we could qualify for, along with the national tax credit. It was great news for our pocketbooks, not great news for our chickens, as it pushed back our close of escrow two weeks longer.

The second unfortunate event was a tragic raccoon attack on our pre-bought chickens in Del Mar. I got a frantic call from the chicken-lady, telling me there had been an attack, she was afraid it would happen again, and I needed to come and pick up the chickens right away.

So... there we were, with 20 chickens and no place to put them for a month.

Transporting 20 chickens, their storage and care while living in a tiny apartment, and building a behemoth of a chicken coop in part two...

Saturday, May 1, 2010

We bought the farm.

Many people ask me how this all happened. I will tell you the story as I remember it.

My husband and I have just fallen out of escrow (that makes it sound like a clumsy mistake on our part... i should probably say "got screwed out of the house we were going to buy" but that sounds a little crass). Two days before we were supposed to get the keys, we suddenly find ourselves packed with nowhere to move. We are devastated and moping around.

Our friends, in a humorous attempt to cheer us up, suggest that we all buy a farm together in Alpine. We laugh. Then Kim says, "No, seriously, Jeremy has a friend that sends him crazy listings in Alpine. We should just look at them." We laugh again.

But the idea has been planted. Kim and I start looking on Redfin at large lots all over San Diego. I talk to our realtor and sheepishly ask her to put farms on our listing. She sends us all the lots that are 1/2 acre or more in San Diego county.

We are searching for something that would be big enough to actually do some farming and have the potential to house two families. The problem is that all the properties that even slightly meet the criteria are far, far away.

San Diego county is 4,526 square miles. It stretches from the coast all the way to Imperial county on the east. And closer to that border is where most of these properties are. We are seriously considering looking at them, but as I think about what life would be like living an hour away from the city of San Diego, I start to hyperventilate a little.

"I just can't be that far away from the city." I tell Kim. We all agree. What we need is a large plot of land in the city. But finding that in San Diego is like finding a parking spot at the beach. Near impossible. Or so we think.

We keep looking online, and at what our realtor sends us over. A few days later one listing comes up in the neighborhood just south of the one we are living in. It is 1.6 acres, and has a 3bed 1bath house on it. About 5 minutes from downtown.

I call our realtor and we go to look at it the next day. It is unbelievable. Driving to the property, one right turn off the main road puts you down what looks like a country road. When we get there and look around, we find a little house with an huge grassy hill stretching as far as we can see behind it, and two empty lots next to it. Hiking to the top of the hill, we can see the Coronado Bridge and downtown. We have found our farm in the city.

We submit an offer that day. Unlike our previous escrow experience, this one flies by with no problems. With barely enough time to think about it, Kim, Jeremy, BJ and I have bought the farm.